Gary Legum

The Trump Administration After 100 Days: A Second-Rate Salesman Surrounded by Con Men and Losers

Saturday will mark the 100th year – sorry, the 100th day – of Donald Trump’s presidency. And what a white-knuckle ride it has been for the world.

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Trail of Broken Promises: Donald Trump's Lengthening List of Empty Lies and Idle Boasts

The pattern Donald Trump follows in making promises has been clear since he first rode that gilded escalator in Trump Tower to his presidential campaign announcement nearly two years ago. It goes something like this:

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Almost Every Single Word of Trump's Speech to Congress Was a Lie

Because so much of political punditry revolves around optics, let us dispense with those first.

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Why Democrats Have No Choice But to Block Trump's Supreme Court Nominee

Let’s get ready to ruuuuuuummmmmmble, judicial confirmation-style.

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Donald Trump Simply Doesn't Get It: His Vast Egotism Is Doing Serious Damage to America

Having been fully briefed on the intelligence community’s assessment that Russia ran an operation to meddle in America’s presidential election and elevate Donald Trump to the White House, the president-elect and his team spent the weekend doing what Republicans do: blaming Democrats for the whole mess.

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A Spirit of Petty Vengeance: Trump's Desire to Purge All Obama Appointees Could Do Major Damage

One might think an incoming president would find some middle ground between completely purging the executive branch of the pernicious influence of his predecessor and not crippling the ability of many agencies to function.

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Does Donald Trump Even Know What the Donald Trump Administration Is Up To?

Does Donald Trump even know what the Donald Trump administration is up to? If this exchange he had on Wednesday with a reporter outside his Mar-a-Lago estate is any indication, the answer is a resounding “No.”

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Trump Is Making America Great Again by Embracing Corporate Titans With Some of the Worst Outsourcing Practices

Earlier this month, Donald Trump established something called the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum. This was billed as a group of business and industry leaders who would be “providing their individual views to the President—informed by their unique vantage points in the private sector—on how government policy impacts economic growth, job creation, and productivity.” The advice from this diverse group of millionaire CEOs would help the new president “implement his plan to bring back jobs and Make America Great Again.”

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Capitulation Nation: Steve Bannon's Media Rehabilitation Shows the Press Is Surrendering Without a Fight

One of the challenges for the media in covering Donald Trump’s presidency — much like the challenge of covering his campaign — will lie in avoiding the normalization of his more outré policies and personnel appointments. This is no small task when almost everything the man says and does is calibrated for outrageousness and the destruction of long-held norms in politics.

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Peak 'Crony Capitalism': Donald Trump Indulging in Corrupt Favoritism Isn’t Surprising - But So Much of It So Soon?!

Of the many, many Republican hypocrisies revealed by the party’s support for and election of Donald Trump to the presidency, we can add the charge thrown with abandon at President Obama throughout his time in office that his administration engaged in the dreaded "crony capitalism."

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Donald Trump's Transition Team Is a Sordid New Swamp of Lobbyists, Donors, Family and Republican Retreads

One could almost feel sorry for Chris Christie, if that dignity train had not left the station months ago. Tapped to lead Donald Trump’s transition team after he was passed over in favor of Mike Pence for the vice presidential slot on the Republican ticket, Christie was replaced as head of the team on Friday by … Mike Pence.

The move is unsurprising for two reasons: For one, Pence is a former congressman who served with some of Capitol Hill’s current leaders. The New York Times reportedthat, with the campaign — along with most of the rest of the civilized world — caught somewhat off-guard by Trump’s surprise win, there was a need to ramp the process up quickly. That means letting Pence and his closest aides tap contacts throughout Washington for help, contacts that Christie likely lacks.

The second reason is Christie’s legal status over the Bridgegate affair, which remains unclear in the wake of the recent convictions of two of his close aides. There is still a slight chance he could be indicted on charges related to the scandal, or possibly impeached by New Jersey’s legislature. No wonder he said this week he would be “open” to taking a job in the Trump administration, depending on what job he is offered. Ladies and gentleman, please meet the Special Oval Office Assistant for McRib Runs, Chris Christie.

On the other hand, it is hard to believe that Trump cares even one iota about whether his advisors are ethically (to say nothing of criminally) compromised. One only has to look at the rest of Friday’s press release, in which he announced a series of additions to the team’s Executive Committee, to see that.

The list of new additions who will give input on all aspects of the transition such as White House and executive-agency staffing decisions, Inauguration planning, and the other million little decisions the Trump team has to make in the next 66 days is a study in nepotism and cronyism. There is Peter Thiel who donated $1.25 million to the Trump cause. There are three of Trump’s adult children and a son-in-law. And nothing gives the lie to Trump’s promise to “Drain the swamp” in Washington faster than this list. You couldn’t find a more comprehensive group of Republican has-beens and reprobates if you turned over every rock on a Superfund site.

In the category of ethically dubious insiders, there is Newt Gingrich, a man who left his office in the House of Representatives 18 years ago under a dark cloud of ethics violations but has hung around the city since, working for think tanks and advising former President George W. Bush. He even advised Hillary Clinton when she was a senator in 2005 on a bill to create electronic databases of patient info and reduce paperwork for hospitals. He is as insider as an insider can get in the capital.

There is Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who two months ago was answering charges she had once dropped a fraud probe into the president-elect’s Trump University in exchange for a $25,000 contribution to a political group connected to her re-election campaign. Bondi’s appointment comes two weeks before the scheduled start of a fraud trial over Trump University, this one in California, in which Trump may be called to testify.

A normal president-elect would not want Bondi’s entanglements anywhere near him when he is trying to get his administration off the ground. Trump not only does not seem to care, he is unlikely to hear an unkind question from the press over it.

There is retired Army general Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, who resigned from that post after clashing with the Obama administration. Flynn has been criticized in some circles for his “friendly ties” to Russia, a country accused of meddling in the election on Trump’s behalf. America was introduced to Flynn this summer when he gave one of the angriest speeches ever seen in primetime at a major-party political convention, during which he encouraged chants of “Lock her up!” directed at Hillary Clinton.

There is Rudy Giuliani, rumored to be on the short list for Attorney General and still floating the possibility of following through on Trump’s campaign promise to prosecute his political opponent on unspecified charges, a threatened abuse of power that would have demolished another candidate’s campaign in a normal year.

There is Steve Bannon, head of Breitbart and Trump’s campaign CEO, who turned his “news” site into Trump’s personal propaganda arm and has brought white supremacy and ethno-nationalism explicitly into Trump’s circle. He’s rumored to be under consideration as Trump’s chief of staff, by the way.

Nothing reinforces the tragedy this election has foisted on the nation than investing people this venal and dumb with as much power as they are about to gain. And nothing reinforces the emptiness of Trump’s populist platform as much as this list. The people on it represent a mixture of cronyism, nepotism (Trump’s three eldest kids and his son-in-law are also advising the transition), shady legal and ethical ties, and influence peddling that might make Richard Nixon blush.

It is not an administration being built to service the public good. It is an administration being built to punish enemies and roll back a century of hard-earned progress. The most frightening part is that Donald Trump, the man at the center of it all, seems to have no idea what he has unleashed.

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Comey the Clown: James Comey's Latest Letter to Congress Proves He and the FBI Are a Farce - Only No One Is Laughing

Thanks a lot, FBI director Emily Litella. Nine days after James Comey upended the presidential race by notifying Congress about the discovery of a cache of emails that might or might not have come from Hillary Clinton’s private email server, he returned on Sunday to echo Gilda Radner’s classic SNL character with a resounding “Never mind!”

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Donald Trump's Alpha Male Insecurity: Getting His Butt Kicked by a Girl Is Just Too Much for Him

At the heart of Donald Trump’s talk of a “rigged” election lies one incontrovertible fact that eats away at him: He is getting his butt kicked by a girl.

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In His Final Capitulation, All Mike Pence Gave Away Was His Autonomy, Integrity and Dignity

For just a fleeting moment this past weekend, it looked as if Mike Pence might escape from his decaying orbit around Donald Trump with what is left of his dignity intact.

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The Republican Nominee Is Going Down

Let us be clear about what we witnessed on that Washington University stage in St. Louis on Sunday night. It was not a debate. It was primal-scream therapy for the denizens of the right-wing fever swamps, who are watching Hillary Clinton and her alleged trail of criminality slip through their clutches again. . They have been waiting for 25 years for someone to put her in the dock and prosecute every tinfoil-hatted conspiracy theory that they have ever dredged from the depths of their minds. In Donald Trump, they finally had their cut-rate, tangerine-tinted Inspector Javert.

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Paul Ryan's Slow-Motion Downfall: Stuck Between Trump and the Tea Party

Poor, poor Paul Ryan.

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Trump Is Closing in the Polls: What It Really Means

As you read this, pollsters are preparing to release surveys conducted over the past weekend and its immediate aftermath, when Hillary Clinton made her accurate but perhaps poorly phrased comment about Donald Trump’s “deplorable” fans, then nearly passed out at a 9/11 memorial service in New York before revealing she had been trying to “power through” a case of walking pneumonia. This allowed the media to start reporting on rumors about her health, previously the province of the right-wing fever swamps from which Trump has drawn much of his support and campaign staff.

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Donald Trump's Spineless Foes: Lurking Within the Republican Party Is Deadly Silent Opposition

There is no greater profile in courage this election cycle than the conservatives who will only speak out against Donald Trump from behind the comfort of anonymity. Unless it is the avowed #NeverTrump editors who will nonetheless turn over space on their website to a convicted felon for an incoherent defense of the xenophobic sweet potato and Republican presidential nominee that amounts to “He’s not really a right-wing reactionary and anyway it’s Hillary Clinton who keeps making all the gaffes.”

Consider the three examples just from the first two days of the week:

  • GQ published the musings of undecided voters and included an anonymous 42-year-old “politics reporter” in Washington who, despite being well aware of Trump’s authoritarian and racist tendencies, suggested he might vote for the mogul anyway because he feels that Trump would be a lot more fun to cover for four years than Hillary Clinton. Besides, “sometimes you just have to blow shit up to build it again.” Certainly the chaos Donald Trump would bring to our body politic, to say nothing of the millions of lives upended by his policies, is worth it to keep political reporters from getting too bored with their jobs.
  • BuzzFeed published a story quoting several anonymous Republicans who are terrified by Clinton’s inability to put Trump away, who believe that he is unqualified and would be a catastrophe in the White House, but who nonetheless won’t go on the record with their opposition because they are worried about hurting their future business and employment prospects.
  • National Review, which infamously turned over a large chunk of an issue in February to various conservative writers making the case against Trump, sent out a tweet to an article apparently titled “Time to Line Up for Trump.” The piece was written by Canadian Conrad Black, a former newspaper publisher who spent time in prison for fraud and embezzlement. The National Review later deleted the tweet to make it clear that Black’s piece was his opinion alone, not the official position of the magazine. It’s a neat trick, trying to distance the publication from its culpability in printing a piece that tried to normalize Trump by calling him “the amiable husband and father of an exemplary family [who] now appears as he does to those who know him: good-humored, sensible, and moderate,” an absolutely ludicrous claim about Donald Trump for any sentient human being who has paid even the slightest bit of attention to this campaign.

And that was just Monday and Tuesday. Who knows how much more of this kind of spineless hedging about the candidate we will see in the final eight weeks of the campaign.

Now, because the GQ and BuzzFeed stories relied on anonymous sources, it’s good to take them with a grain of salt. There is always the possibility that this is some high-level trolling from Republicans who like to wind up Democrats, a group notoriously prone to panicking.

But if we take them at face value, especially the BuzzFeed sources, then we should be nothing but contemptuous of them. By this point, it seems to be clear to any person to the left of Genghis Khan on the political spectrum that Trump is dangerously unqualified to occupy the Oval Office. (If it isn’t clear, here is a list of a mere 176 reasons why no one should vote for Trump.) Yet here are conservatives using terms like “terrifying” and “terrible for America and for the world” to describe a potential Trump presidency, and who still will only reluctantly vote for Clinton and will certainly not have the courage to publicly take a stand against their party’s candidate.

This is the ultimate expression of privilege, to assume that the presidential candidate equivalent of the Big One won’t destroy your house so long as you keep your head down and don’t let the San Andreas Fault know you’re there.

Added to the farcical nature of the anonymous whining is that these Republicans are apparently mad that Clinton has struggled to put Trump away. This after 25 years of often-baseless attacks and bad-faith complaints about and attacks against the Democratic candidate by the GOP have helped drive her unfavorable ratings with the public into sky-high territory.

In other words, the same people who have suffered from Clinton Derangement Syndrome for a quarter century are now upset that Clinton can’t destroy the candidate created by years and years of their own dishonesty.

It would all be hilarious if it wasn’t so craven and pathetic.

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The Bondi Scandal: Somehow Teflon Trump Takes No Damage From Alleged Bribery Scheme

Donald Trump won the Republican primary largely by playing on his persona as a straight-talking businessman who scoffed at political correctness. He didn’t need to pretend to be an honorable man while trading money for influence in an opaque system that other politicians participate in even while bemoaning it. He was the answer to the political version of the question that a narrator used to ask during the opening crawl of MTV’s “The Real World”: What happens when a presidential candidate stops being polite, and starts getting real?

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Prime-Time Drama: Hillary and Trump Have First Joint Forum This Week - and It's as Crucial as the Debates

It is not a debate, but Wednesday will see the first joint appearance between presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The two will appear in a one-hour primetime forum where they will take questions from an audience on national security and military affairs. It airs on both NBC and MSNBC. Adjust the color balance for pumpkins on your TV accordingly.

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Rumors Spread of a Brewing Coup Against Paul Ryan - But That's Only the Beginning

The same day that The Huffington Post reported that conservatives in the House of Representatives might attempt a January coup to oust Paul Ryan from his job as speaker, Ryan’s predecessor John Boehner posted this video to his YouTube channel. The 7-second clip shows Boehner, casually dressed in shorts and a pink golf shirt, seated behind the wheel of what might be an RV. The camera pans to the view out the front window: an empty highway unrolling towards a distant horizon. The RV’s destination may be unknown, but the optimism and freedom inherent in the vision is quintessentially American, as if Boehner were re-creating a scene from Jack Kerouac. Or at least from “About Schmidt.”

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From Booster to Adviser: Sean Hannity Has Erased His Final, Albeit Microscopic, Sliver of Impartiality

Today in Austin, Texas, Republican presidential nominee – it still feels weird to type this – Donald Trump will tape a two-hour interview with his trained news poodle Sean Hannity. The event will likely entail 120 minutes of the Fox News host offering the sentient tangelo peel open-ended softball questions from which Trump can spin out extended rants about every conspiracy theory and nasty, subversive rumor he has ever heard about Hillary Clinton, egged on by the chuckles of the live audience brought in for the private, closed-to-the-press affair.

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No, Hillary Won't Have a Mandate: If Clinton Wins, She Won't Be Empowered the Way Democrats Hope

There may be no more shopworn and meaningless cliché in politics than the idea of election winners having mandates. Yet you hear about it all the time. A president who wins election by any margin large or small will claim a mandate to push through his policy agenda. A party that wins congressional majorities will claim a mandate to either support or oppose the president, depending on the president’s popularity or whether he is a member of the opposition party.

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The GOP After Trump: Another Candidate With His Destructive Platform Could Easily Rise Again

On Thursday, Fox News’ Eric Bolling interviewed Donald Trump, who said something that, had it come from any other candidate, would sound amazing to anyone who has ever worked on a political campaign.

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From Fringe to Mainstream: Conspiracies, Baseless Accusations and Lunacy Are the New Normal for Republicans

There has been a lot of speculation about what will happen to the Republican Party if Donald Trump, as seems more and more likely, gets crushed in the November election. The party has split into factions at odds with each other and seemingly adrift. Some Republicans are fleeing this orange-hulled Titanic of a presidential campaign as fast as they can launch the lifeboats. The fractures this election have created and exacerbated may not be healable.

The words “Whig Party” have been spoken many times in relation to the current GOP, with the implication that the latter will suffer the fate of the former and disappear, done in by the weight of its recent history of prizing affect over governing philosophy – what Josh Marshall calls its “nonsense debt” – and its own inability to adapt to a changing country. In its place, theoretically, a new party will rise to replace it, much like the Republican Party replaced the Whigs just before the Civil War.

It is equally likely that the Republican Party will stay intact after November, that it will still have enough of a power base in the House of Representatives and in the states to convince itself to limp along and rebuild. But it likely can’t be viable until it purges itself of all the racism and toxic waste it has spent the last 40-plus years cultivating. And as the confluence of several stories this week reminds us, disentangling a functional political party from the rot that has infected it at all levels is likely an impossible task.

Consider the following:

  • “Red Eye,” the popular Fox News overnight show, had on as a guest one Mike Cernovich, a Men’s Rights Activist and well-known figure in the “alt-right,” the name with which society has rebranded the far-right collection of racists and white supremacists from which Trump draws a fair amount of his support. Cernovich has trafficked in conspiracy theories and his Twitter feed is a mass of rape apologia and paranoia that the Democratic Party is going to assassinate him.

Cernovich is so terrible that the producers of “Red Eye” felt compelled afterwards to say that they had made a mistake in booking him. But that doesn’t answer the question of how they found him in the first place. It’s simple, really: He swims in the same sewers as the rest of the eager up-and-coming right-wingers at Fox News.

  • Sean Hannity devoted an episode of his primetime Fox show to “investigating” the background of Khizr Khan. It was Khan’s appearance at the Democratic National Convention, where he spoke about his dead son, an American soldier killed during the occupation of Iraq 12 years ago, and his love of this country and its Constitution, that turned into a crisis for the Trump campaign after the candidate attacked the grieving father and his wife.

Khan’s appearance led to his smearing in the right-wing media as some sort of Muslim Brotherhood sleeper agent who advocates for jihad and wants to see the United States brought under sharia law. The sources of these smears do not have a single fact to support them and even some Republicans are appalled at Hannity for spending an episode of his show giving them a voice.

  • Hillary Clinton was sued by the parents of two of the victims of the Benghazi attack, including Patricia Smith, the grieving mother who spoke at the Republican National Convention last month, where she accused Clinton of lying to her about the cause of the September 2012 attack and suggested the Democratic nominee should be wearing prison stripes.

After receiving this primetime speaking slot, Smith is now being represented in her lawsuit by Larry Klayman, a prominent birther who has made a career out of hounding Democratic presidents and other party figures with nuisance lawsuits in between marching on the White House to demand Barack Obama resign over his alleged “eligibility fraud.” (Translation: the president wouldn’t show his birth certificate.)  

  • Over the weekend, Iran announced that it had executed a top scientist, Shahram Amiri, for having given the United States information about its nuclear weapons program. This led both Trump and his vice presidential running mate Mike Pence, along with Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), to publicly make the baseless suggestion that the Iranians had found out about Amiri’s treason from emails that had been on Clinton’s private server. The Washington Post has a good rundown of why this accusation is a load of garbage.

What these stories all have in common is that they are premised on complete and unadulterated bullshit, the kind of stuff that used to be limited to shortwave radio transmissions beamed out from trailers in the Nevada desert. Now they are the mainstream of the Republican Party.

But this is the problem with the right wing and the Republicans these days. The GOP has no discernment, no firewalls to insulate itself from its crazies and the conspiracies and dark fantasia they spin out. There is no distinction to be made between its presidential candidate, a senator who has been a sleeper darling of the Republican establishment (Bill Kirstol was Cotton’s first mentor when he arrived in Washington), and the lunatics voting for it in this election.

It is hard to see how the GOP splits, forming one right-ish party while the far-right kooks slip further out onto the fringe. The kooks are the party now. Separating them out to become a functional party capable of participating in governance may not be possible.​

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Don’t Worry About Trump’s 'Lead' Yet: It’s Too Early to Stress About the Polls

One day in the next three months, I hope some enterprising pollster conducts a survey of emergency rooms and doctors about whether they have seen a spike in patients suffering heart attacks or high blood pressure from reading all of the polls of the presidential race. My guess? The answer will be an emphatic yes.

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Hillary Clinton Is a Survivor: On the Eve of Her Acceptance Speech, Take a Moment to Acknowledge All That She's Overcome

Sometime Thursday night, Hillary Clinton will walk onto a stage in Philadelphia to formally accept the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. The crowd will go wild, as it always does at this moment in a political convention. People will cheer and wave signs. Maybe someone will bring a few vuvuzelas into the arena, in which case, God help anyone trapped in there with them.

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Poor Jeb Is Right for Once: His Brand of Conservatism Is Dead - And He’s Partly to Blame

For those of you who thought “Please clap” was rock bottom for the depths of sadness plumbed by Jeb Bush this election cycle, I present to you his interview this week with Nicole Wallace.

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Three Reasons Rumored Trump Veep Pick Mike Pence Would Be a Big Mistake

Given Donald Trump’s historic unpopularity as a presidential candidate, he might be well-served to choose a vice president who projects an aura of warmth and competence to compensate for his own lack of charm. If the rumors are true, however, he has instead chosen Republican governor Mike Pence of Indiana.

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Protesters, White Nationalists and Armed Delegates: What Could Possibly Go Wrong at the GOP Convention?

If you are in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention in two weeks, here are some sights you can expect to see:

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From Reason to Sheer Insanity: Orlando Mass Shooting Has Splintered the GOP

The massacre at a gay club in Orlando on Sunday has caused a fascinating split in the Republican Party to once again burst out into the open. On one side you have the conservative id, distilled into the body of presidential nominee and racist Cheez-It Donald Trump, along with his assorted sycophants. On the other side you have the leaders of the party who long ago abrogated their moral duty to their country and all notions of decency by falling in line behind and refusing to condemn the vile rhetoric of said racist Cheez-It, all because their fear of being yelled at by a bunch of Twitter eggs eclipses whatever ragged shards of humanity might have survived their years of service to the GOP.

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